By Nathan C. Vance
In the last week, a representative from Texas filed a motion to start the impeachment process on our current president. Also, during a graduation ceremony at Notre Dame University, as Vice President Mike Pence began addressing the crowd, a large contingent of students stood and exited the arena rather than listen to anything he had to say. Our president has also been spending time building relations in the Middle East, hopefully not offending any leaders or sparking the beginning of World War III. Through all of these events, we see two different pictures of hope. The hope of the Democratic Party in the United States lies in an ideal that this president will refrain from undoing the progressive work of the previous president or that he will eventually be removed from office. Republicans turned out en masse in November to vote for a candidate who gave them hope in promises of a balanced national deficit and a return to domestic manufacturing thinking these steps could solve many of the issues they see in our country.
Movies have an incredible ability to give us perspective on complex issues. For example, In the Star Wars inspired 2016 film, Rogue One, main character Jyn Erso succinctly states in a moment of persuasion that “rebellions are built on hope.” This hope that she spoke of was specifically that they could find plans for a flaw embedded in the Death Star, the Republic and Lord Vader’s ultimate tool of destruction and eventually gain a small advantage in the seemingly unwinnable intergalactic star war that they were engaged in. The overarching story is simple and is as old as time. They needed hope that eventually good can and will triumph over evil.
Hope : A feeling of expectation and desire for a certain thing to happen. We have to imagine a world the way we want it in order to build it. Once we can imagine the way we want things to be, that vision becomes our hope. Our world needs hope. It needs this exact hope: that eventually, in spite of everything that goes on, good can and will win out over evil.
To what evil(s) do I refer?
1. Greed. I wrote an entire piece on the Utility Blog recently about how God views the poor and how he views our treatment of the poor. The Bible mentions the poor over 300 times. The Bible also says in 1 Timothy 6:10 that “the love of money is the root of every evil.” I’ve been raised a free-thinking, red-blooded American. I have a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration and am well-versed in the properties of capitalism and its origins in Social Darwinism, which states that, as in nature, “only the strong survive.” I understand the importance of efficiency, strength, and the bottom line as it pertains to business. I know how a free market works. But I cannot believe that our creator designed humanity to wipe one another off the face of the earth. There is no part of me that feels okay with the extreme poverty in our country and in our world. Down deep in my very core, I have hope for a better tomorrow for me, for my loved ones, and for all humanity. I have hope that we can eventually learn to care for each other rather than living a dog-eat-dog lifestyle with many forced into homelessness or far worse.
2. War. Maybe this should be lumped in with greed, for greed is at the heart of all of the wars for all-time, isn’t it? My father has always told me that poor men sacrifice their sons and daughters on the altar of greed to fight and die in rich men’s wars. I hate war because it is an instrument of death and destruction. Our nation was forged through war. The fact is that, while early Americans fought nobly for freedom from tyranny, the British opposition fought only to maintain control. In the U.S. Civil War, one side fought for an ideal that all men were created equal while the opposing side fought to maintain slavery as a way to maximize wealth and to maintain control. Our nation has fought in two world wars, another war for control of the southeastern Asian nation Vietnam, a stalemate war with North Korea that could re-ignite at any moment, and two wars in the Persian Gulf that were, in truth, to protect oil interests and to settle personal conflicts. Those wars cost our country almost 1.5 million lives (statistics from militaryfactory.com). The total number of casualties suffered in World War II from all sides exceeds 60 million people (nationalww2museum.org). What’s worse is the obscene number of soldiers whose lives are changed forever due to the unnatural stress caused by the sight and application of death. Throughout the 20th century, The United States engaged in a Cold War with the Soviet Union that left the citizens of both nations in constant fear of nuclear holocaust. Martin Luther King, Jr. summed up my own feelings on war in this famous quote: “It is no longer a choice between violence and non-violence; it’s non-violence or non-existence.”
I’m tired of living in a world where we are in constant fear that North Korea may launch a nuclear attack or that Iran may develop weapons of mass destruction or that Russia may have intel that could potentially wipe us all off the face of the Earth. That’s not how we were designed to live.
3. Disease. Major diseases in the modern world include cancer, AIDS, and diabetes. Since 1990, approximately 5 million people have died of cancer (thomlatimercares.org). The World Health Organization estimates that 70 million people have been infected with the AIDS virus and about 35 million have died of HIV. Globally, around 36.7 million people were living with HIV at the end of 2015. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (cdc.gov) estimates that between 2011 and 2014, about 12.6 percent of adults 20 years old or older had a form of diabetes. It also lists diabetes as the seventh leading cause of death. The world has faced many epidemics and plagues and diseases and the common thread among all of them is death. I have a hope in a world of tomorrow where we can live free of disease.
What is the point of hope, then? The world is a horribly ugly place. It is dark and filled with deception and destruction. It is a place where humanity doesn’t value other humanity.
You don’t have to get very deep into social media to see that the world hates God. At least, they hate the Christian God. If they didn’t before they were introduced to Vice President Mike Pence, they certainly do now that they have made his acquaintance. And that makes me sad. There is so much to disdain in this life but Jesus Christ, the son of the living God, should not be counted among the despised. He should be our hope, our strength, our salvation.
Where does our modern view of God and Jesus stem from? I believe it is in the most complex text in the entire Bible, the book of Job. In Job 1:22, Job famously states “naked I came out of my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return: The Lord gave and the Lord hath taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.”
This text has not only been studied by Christians and Jews but by people of all viewpoints. The book of Job is regarded by many literary scholars as the greatest human text in existence. It digs deeply into questions about our existence and the role a deity plays in our lives. And of course, in studying the text, many are drawn to these words spoken by Job in the face of tragic loss.
But who would want to believe in and serve a god who takes from them?
What is often missed in that question is that Job is speaking incorrectly on the subject. God took nothing from Job. Satan took from Job. The Bible says in John 10:10 that “the thief comes to steal, kill, and destroy; I have come that they might have life, and have it more abundantly.”
1 John 1:5 says that “God is light; in Him there is no darkness.”
In Jeremiah 29:11, we are told God knows “the plans I have for you, plans to prosper you and not harm you. To give you a future and a hope.”
This is the God I serve. He is the light, not the dark; the giver, not the taker; the hero and not the thief. So why do I put my hope in the Lord? Because his kingdom established is a place without greed. It is a place where Jesus boldly proclaims “blessed are the poor.” Because the answer to war is found in Philippians 4:7: “And the peace of God which transcends all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.” In Christ, our healing was bought and paid for at the cross where He offered himself up as a living sacrifice. I put my hope in the Lord because, as Elihu pointed out to Job, I wasn’t there when the stars were put into place. I didn’t stand on the shore and tell the proud waves where to halt. I don’t know the dimensions of the world. I am only a man whose very nature is dark and flawed.
So, unlike many Americans, I cannot put my hope in politicians. I believe in a world greater than can be built by either Republicans or Democrats. On all sides of the political spectrum, I know that our leaders are only human. They are flawed and imperfect and corruptible. But Jesus Christ, though born a man, was free from sin. He is the good shepherd. He is the lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. He is our perfection.
And so I believe Psalm 39:7 when it says “but now Lord, what do I look for? My hope is in you.” I believe Psalm 62:5 when it says “yes, my soul, find rest in my God; my hope comes from Him.” And I believe Psalm 121:1-2 where it says, “I lift up my eyes to the hills, where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of Heaven and Earth.”
So, just like Jyn Erso and the members of the rebellion, I have the hope that good will triumph over evil. But it is just another hope. It is hope that I cannot have in mortal man. My hope is in the Lord.